6 Strategies to Drive Customer Engagement - 2 women talking at a counter

6 strategies to drive customer engagement

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

When it comes to your small business, growing can be a challenge. While many business owners like you might think increasing your business happens through new customer acquisition, retaining existing customers is equally important. New customers are great, but building relationships with your customer base business is crucial, as these customers can become brand advocates who help give you customer referrals. So in this article, we’ll take a look at customer engagement—what it is, how it works and then six strategies you can use to increase customer interactions at your business. First, let’s define customer engagement.

What is customer engagement?

One of the most important ingredients in running a successful business is how you interact with your customers. Customer engagement is the process of interacting with your customers, both online and offline, and meeting these customer expectations. These moments of interaction between your business and your customer should leave them with a positive feeling toward your business. Customer engagement strategies help you connect with your customers and help you share your small business’s mission and values with them. Customer engagement is an important part of your business's marketing strategy, helping you connect with your target audience. But it’s more than just a way to increase sales and profitability; it’s a way to share value with them without the express purpose of simply making a sale. It’s a long-term growth strategy that helps your business create and foster relationships while ensuring customer satisfaction.

Why should you create a customer engagement strategy?

When it comes to your small business, you may wonder why you should consider investing your time in creating a customer engagement strategy. Well, one of the biggest reasons to create this strategy is that a customer experience is valuable. In fact, a customer’s experience is the top reason people choose to give their business to one company over another. A competent customer engagement strategy can also help improve customer loyalty, as loyal customers come from a great customer service experience. Those who receive a great customer experience will return to buy more than disengaged customers. 

Another positive of creating a customer engagement strategy is increased revenue. When a customer feels like a brand or business understands them, they’ll be more likely to spend more with that company. That’s why relationships with your customers can be so valuable. In addition to just their business, they’ll be more apt to tell their friends and family about how your business works, helping you to gain new business as well. Because word of mouth sales can be so valuable, it makes sense for a small business owner like yours to strongly consider a customer engagement strategy.

Now that you understand more about user engagement and why it’s important to have a strategic approach to customer engagement, let’s look at six effective customer engagement strategies that you can use to help your business.

1. Understand your customer experience

One of the most important pieces for your business is your customer. Without them, there’d be no need for customer engagement strategies. Therefore, it’s paramount that you understand your customer journey and their experience with your business. Then, you can create a customer-centric experience that puts the customer at the forefront of your business.

To fully understand your customer’s journey, it’s important to map it out. Many customers have an omnichannel customer journey, meaning they interact with your business in various ways. Therefore, when you’re mapping out these details, be sure to include all of the different interactions that a customer could have with your business. This includes your brick and mortar store, website, online ecommerce site, third-party retailers, social media, customer retention emails, phone calls/texts and any other customer touchpoints. Then, evaluate each of these to see how you can improve them.

Each of these details matter and can affect your business. On the phone, maybe customers have to wait too long to speak with a representative or don’t understand a confusing prompt when on hold. Online, it could be a tough-to-navigate ecommerce site or an order that didn’t go through after inputting all the information.  It could be long response times or tone deaf responses on social media. While it can seem like a lot, it’s important to view all of these pieces of your business through the eyes of your customers. If they have a bad experience, they’re much less likely to frequent or recommend your business. So once you’ve identified places in your business that could use improvements, it’s time to get to work.

One of the best ways to help shape your customer experience is to ask for customer feedback. By soliciting feedback via short customer surveys (and even offering incentives when customers do provide feedback), you’ll better understand what your customers want from your business and how you can change to better meet their needs. Then, by putting this data to work, you’ll create rapport with your customers, gaining their trust by taking their suggestions into consideration.

Now let’s take a look at the second way to drive user engagement—optimizing your website experience.
 

2. Optimize your website experience

For businesses that have a website, it’s important to optimize the design to be user-friendly. As the place where many customers can find all the pertinent information about your business, it must be easy to navigate. If a customer can’t find something they’re looking for, like the hours of operation at your business, they may decide to forego visiting your store.

It’s also essential to make sure that your design is intuitive. Busy sites crammed with information can overwhelm your customer. Clutter can make it hard for customers to navigate your site. Therefore, it’s best to follow design best practices. 

You’ll also want to make sure that your site is fast and responsive. A slow site can cause impatient customers to leave your site before it even finishes loading. This is especially true if you have an ecommerce site, as customers will choose to shop elsewhere if they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly enough. To help ensure that your site is fast, responsive and that ordering is intuitive, make sure to run through all pages on your site. Site speed is an important factor in Google search rankings, so a faster site can help you attract more organic traffic to your site, helping to attract more potential customers.

As you can see, your website experience can play a significant role in a customer’s journey. Now, let’s take a look at another strategy—personalizing the customer experience.
 

3. Personalizing your customer experience

As you’ve seen, each time a customer interacts with your business, it’s an opportunity to engage with them. One of the best ways to increase customer engagement is personalizing the customer’s experience. There are many ways to make personal and emotional connections in your business’s communications with customers. For example, including customers’ first names in emails is an easy way to make a mass email more personal. 

When it comes to responding to social media, taking the time to thank customers for reviews or positive messages can also go a long way. It’s important to also respond to critical reviews or responses very tactfully. Helping to remedy these situations when possible can help you build rapport with customers.

Surprising your customers who interact positively with your business on social media can also help them feel a more personal connection to your business. You may run a contest or promotion for business reviews, while surprising a few customers with gifts or products. For reviews that really make your business shine, you might consider reposting them on your social channels (with permission) to highlight and thank the customer who wrote it. Not only will this show off your attention to what your customers have to say about your business, it’ll also give your followers a first-person perspective on your products or services. 

As you can see, personalization is important to consider to make customers feel more involved with your business. It's important to follow up with these customers, as customization can greatly impact a customers’ perception of your business. The more customers feel included, the more likely they will engage with you and your business. Now, let’s take a look at the next strategy: using social media.

4. Using social media 

As an individual, you’re probably familiar with the various social media platforms. You’ve probably seen the impact it can have, but have you put it to use for your business yet? If not, you’re missing out on a powerful tool for customer engagement. There are countless ways to engage with your customers on social media. Here are a few keys to success when it comes to utilizing social media:

Post relevant business information

A business’s social media is often the first stop a potential customer will make when researching a company. That’s why it’s so important to list all the pertinent information for customers. From the products you sell to the hours of operation of your brick and mortar store to your ecommerce website address, your social media should serve as a one-stop shop for your business’s basics.

Post content relevant to your customers

One of the biggest ways to attract and retain customers is to post content that matters to your audience. This could be information related to your business, including sales and special promotions. This could also include what other customers are saying about your goods and services, or expertise that only your business can provide. With more relevant content, many customers will like and subscribe so that they can receive notifications from your business – including any new products, loyalty program updates or promotions your business might have.

Respond and engage with customers

It’s important to make sure that when your customers do interact with your business on social media you respond. This shows them that your business values their contributions and thoughts. Whether it’s retweeting them on Twitter or liking their comments on Instagram, acknowledging their contributions can go a long way to gain their trust and foster brand loyalty.

Run interactive promotions

Another way to engage your followers on social media is to run interactive contests and promotions. As we discussed in the previous section, surprising and delighting customers for their participation in contests is a great way to foster a customer relationship. Another opportunity is to run “tag a friend” campaigns on platforms like Twitter and Instagram. This type of campaign rewards a follower for tagging their friends in a post from your business while exposing others who may not follow you to your brand. This is a great way to gain exposure without having to put money behind gaining new followers, although that is another great way to increase your business’s social media reach. You can also seek interactivity through the use of quizzes and new features on social media, like Add Yours on Instagram.

Now that you’ve seen the impact social media can have on your customer engagement, let’s take a look at the next way to drive customer engagement— real-time engagement.

5. Real-time engagement

Another great way to increase engagement with your customers is to provide real-time engagement opportunities. Real-time engagement helps customers feel like you’re taking care of them right at the moment. Besides helping them in the moment, you're also helping to foster brand awareness among people who are unfamiliar with your business. 

Luckily, there are a few ways to accomplish this real-time customer support. One is a live chat, whether a live video or just a text live chat. When customers can talk to a human support team member face-to-face, it helps them put a friendly face to your business. However, if this isn’t feasible, talking to an expert via text live chat is another great option. Again, they feel like your business is hearing them in real time. Should neither of these options be feasible for your business, you can look to incorporate a chatbot.

If you’re not familiar with chatbots, they utilize automation and AI to help answer customers’ questions. From specific product questions to recommending the right product to customers based on their needs, a chatbot can help provide a seamless customer communication experience even after hours. Chatbots use sophisticated technology that helps their conversation patterns feel more human. So even if a customer knows they’re talking with a chatbot, it’ll be less intrusive the more human the conversation feels. Utilizing chatbots rely on constructing the right responses for common questions your customers have. That’s another reason why customer data is so valuable, as it can really help inform the conversational structure of these chatbot conversations.

6. Make your brand relatable

Finally, a key strategy to drive customer engagement is to make sure your brand is relatable. When it comes to your company’s brand, it’s important to create a brand personality that customers will want to engage with. Customers buy from brands they relate to, so be authentic and show off your brand while making your customers aware of your business’s purpose and mission. Let them know how  your business gives back to others and the community through projects.

Creating a brand isn’t about constructing a fabricated version of your company. It’s about being authentic to who you are and what your business stands for. Then, it’s about sharing that story with your customers. It could be the transparency of where you source your products or materials or companies you partner with. For those who prioritize sustainability, it might be producing content about your sustainability practices. These things help create an identity for your brand, which can help your customers relate to your business. Now that you know more about how to engage with your customers, how do you track this customer engagement? Let’s look at the ways to do that in the next section.

How to Track Customer Engagement

After implementing customer engagement strategies, you’ll want to track the difference between customer engagement before and after implementation. That can also tell you how well you’re relating to customers through your engagement efforts. There are several ways to track customer engagement. Let’s take a look at the different customer engagement KPIs to track on various media:

Social Media

A few different metrics on social media can tell you about your customer engagement. One is your posts' reach, or how many people are looking at your content. It's a way to see how many eyeballs have been on your content. The other indicator is engagement, which is how many people have interacted with your content. While different social media platforms have different forms of engagement, it’s akin to liking, commenting and sharing content on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. 

More engagement is obviously better, but calculating the engagement rate of posts can be particularly useful for seeing how engaging your content is. It’s easy to calculate the engagement rate, as it’s just the total number of engagements divided by the number of people who have viewed your post. The higher the engagement rate, the more engaging your post is.

You can also tell how customers feel about your business by looking at reviews on social media and on the web. 

Email

In email, there are a few key indicators that your email engagement is successful. First, the email open rate can tell you if customers are finding your content engaging enough to even open. Then, if they do end up opening the email, it’s important to keep an eye on the click-through rate. This measures how many people are clicking on the CTA to take them to your website or ecommerce site. The more engaging your content, the higher those rates tend to be. If you're using some of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools, they can help you track your email marketing efforts.

Website

When it comes to website interactions, there are a few key metrics. The first is the conversion rate: getting a customer to perform an action. That could be buying a product, booking an appointment or downloading something. It’s important to talk to your website provider to help you navigate these analytics. 

Another useful metric is bounce rate, which determines how long customers are staying on your website and if they’re navigating to other pages besides your homepage on your website. Again, analytics are available for this metric and can tell you how engaging your website is. You can also find out how long customers stay  on your website with dwell time. The longer a customer stays on your website, the more likely they’re engaged with your content. 

Finally, return visitors can tell you how many customers are returning to your website. The return visitors metric can show you how you’re creating value for your customers. Return visitors also tend to interact with more pages on your website and stay longer than other visitors. 

In this article, we’ve looked at how you can improve your customer experience and drive customer engagement. By building customer relationships, you can encourage and retain engaged customers while spurring business growth. The bottom line is this: as you grow, so should your customer engagement efforts. After all, planning to scale is an important part of building any business.

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